Leo Babauta

Just how effortless is your life?

Do you live a life of flow and ease? Or is everyday for you full of stress and pressure?

Imagine what your life would be like if you could spend each day in contentment and mindfulness. A day in which you only do those things you truly love doing. And your life is full of simple joys.

Well, I have just read a book which shows you just how you can get such a life – effortlessly.

I have been talking to my friend Leo Babauta of Zen Habits who has recently published his latest book called “The Effortless Life: A Manual for Contentment, Mindfulness, & Flow“.

This is a unique book in that though it’s been authored by Leo, it was publicly written, and the world was invited to help collaboratively write and edit the document. The book is therefore the result of a collaborative effort between Leo and a few others.

Leo’s book is a concise guide to living an effortless life – and the entire work is “uncopyrighted”.

You can read more about Leo’s new book here – “The Effortless Life: A Manual for Contentment, Mindfulness, & Flow

If you haven’t heard of Leo Babauta, then let me tell you abit more about him.

Leo is the world’s leading blogger whose blog Zen Habits now has over 230,000 subscribers and is transforming the world with his message of simple productivity.

Please do check out Zen Habits today and be sure to subscribe.

Leo has become a friend and a mentor on my blogging journey – and he kindly agreed to an interview for Make It Happen readers:-

1. Leo, welcome to my blog and thanks for accepting my request for an interview.

A lot of my readers already know of you through previous interviews and articles about you. I have read all of your books to date and learnt a lot from you. But I have to say that with your latest book you have surpassed yourself!

Please describe your new book in more detail – and what do you mean when you say it’s been written publicly with help from the world?

Leo: The Effortless Life is the culmination of the last several years of my writing, as I’ve moved from trying to maximize every minute for productivity, to simplifying life to the bare essentials. It’s my take on Lao Tzu’s philosophy, including “Be Content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.”

It was written on a public Google Doc, so that people could watch me write it live, add comments and suggestions, and even contribute and help edit the book as it was being written. It was a massive collaboration, and one of the most chaotic, scary, and exciting writing projects I’ve ever done.

2. The theme of my blog is all about making things happen, which may seem to be in direct contrast with what you are advocating.

So just what do you mean by effortless living?

Leo: Effortless living is removing the extraneous things we’ve created that cause life to be more of a struggle. So for example if you’re striving to make things happen, what would happen if you stopped striving to make things happen, and just started doing? You might not care about making things happen, and so the results don’t matter as much as the process. You might have more fun doing what you’re doing, and be more present doing it. Ironically, I’ve found that by letting go of goals and trying to get certain results, I’ve accomplished more. But that’s only a side effect of living effortlessly.

3. You describe in your book about how you easily learnt to swim once you stopped trying so hard. As someone else who can’t yet swim, what advise can you give me and my readers to achieve something easily, in the context of effortless living?

Leo: Water is very dense, and can either be something we struggle against, or something that buoys us up, that helps us float. Life is the same way. Don’t struggle against it — creating arbitrary goals, trying to control things, complaining, being inconsiderate to others, creating too many tasks for yourself, having too many expectations, creating false needs and wants … these are ways that we create struggle. If you let go of these things, and learn to glide, life buoys you up.

4. You talk about Wu Wei & Doing Nothing – and I personally can NOT relate to that! (I am wondering if there is any help for me out there? Should I just go and live on a tropical island on my own without the internet?)

As per your book I tried doing everything mindfully for an hour – and wow, what a revelation! I learnt just how I am lacking in mindfulness most of the time.

So my real question is this – is it really possible to do nothing?

Leo: It’s not possible to literally do nothing, as we are always sitting or standing or lying down or breathing … but I’ve found that too often we feel that unless we are taking some kind of positive action, we are being passive, or lazy, or unproductive. This is why we take so many unnecessary actions — we’re not comfortable with pauses and inactivity. As a result, we struggle, we work too much. Do less. Act only when necessary. It’s a completely different mindset, but once you learn to do it, it’s wonderful.

5. You come across as someone who lives effortlessly. But do YOU ever have a bad hair day where effortless living goes out of the window and you become all frantic and frustrated?

Leo: Oh, absolutely. The things I’ve written in this book are mostly advice to myself. I’m learning along with everyone else, and only sharing the results of what I’ve learned so far. I still have lots to learn. I snap and get mad at my wife and kids sometimes. I get frustrated at the “stupidness” of strangers. Then I remind myself to give up expectations, and just live. It works wonders.

6. Leo, towards the end of your book you talk about realizing that we are already good enough:-

“A powerful realization that has helped me is simply this: You’re already good enough, you already have more than enough, and you’re already perfect.

You already have everything you need to be content, right here and right now.”

Yet there is so much talk in the personal development and the blogosphere about the need to set and achieve goals. But you are advocating living without goals and accepting that we are already enough and have enough. Please outline what you mean by this?

Leo: The personal development field (books and blogs) is built on the desire people have to be better, to improve themselves. At its heart, this desire is based on dissatisfaction with who we are. And none of us is immune to it. We have bad self-images, so that we feel fat or unproductive or unattractive or undisciplined. But this is only because we compare ourselves with images in the media, or perfect people who write blogs. Those are lies. The images we see in magazines, movies, TV shows … they are not real. They are designed to get us to want perfect abs, or be the perfect parent, or be the perfect entrepreneur. And if we want that perfection, of course we must buy their products.

I’m suggesting we let go of all that, and accept ourselves as already perfect. Sure, we may have too much fat, or get angry, or have too much clutter. But why is that necessarily bad? Why can’t we just accept ourselves as we are, and not compare ourselves to others, to false images? If we accept ourselves as we are, we no longer need to improve. That doesn’t mean we don’t do things that we’re passionate about, but it means that it’s rooted in love, and not self hate.

7. Final question Leo. The bit about your book that really resonated with me was where you say cause no harm and be compassionate. It ties up nicely with my idea about Personal Social Responsibility.

Here’s a quote directly from your book:-
“Want something meaningful to do? You don’t need to change jobs—just help others, in any way you can. Help coworkers to succeed. Be there for friends when they need you. Spend time with loved ones and encourage them. Volunteer to help the needy. Improve your community in small ways.”

Leo, you can improve the world community and make an even bigger impact in the world in the future. When will you effortlessly run for president?

(In other words, what’s next for you?).

Leo: It’s my belief that if we learn to accept ourselves as we are, we have improved the world. If we are happy with ourselves, we will start to treat ourselves well. We will treat others with compassion. We will then make the lives of others better. The world will change, one person at a time. It’s a revolutionary act, to love yourself.

And so my answer is that I have no plans, other than to love myself. I have no expectations for what will come from that, but so far it’s been deeply gratifying.

Thanks very much Leo for sharing your personal insights and tips.  We all look forward to living more effortlessly.

So there you are – you have heard all about effortless living from the master himself.

Now over to you – please reflect on how you are going to start living effortlessly.


What works for you?

What doesn’t work for you?

How do you create ease and flow in your life?